Despite its efforts on social media, Google has - barring YouTube - not met with the kind of success it would have liked. Has it been left behind in the 'social media race'?
Yes, in the true sense of the word, Google has missed the social media bus. We have had eras of the desktop, the browser, search and now, social. Each era was dominated by a different player. The only exception was when the desktop dominator Microsoft managed to react late and came back to win the browser war. Otherwise, it has been a different player straddling different spaces.
Google had search. It does not have social. Period! That said, it could have had a role in the social-dominated world, if only it would focus there. Instead of striving to be a player in the social space as well, if Google declares peace with all social players (mainly Facebook and Twitter) and creates great search skills that enable the social world to be searched well on real time, then we may have a game here.
Otherwise, today, a lot of the search needs are also going away from Google (breaking news gets searched on Twitter, for example).
Google has certainly lost the race against Facebook. But then, there is more to social media than Facebook, and a few years from now, who knows?
Google is the Internet, as we know it. It is still early years for social media, and put together social search, android (Facebook is struggling on mobile, at least perception-wise), sexier email and video and things could just be different, very different.
There is another thing, from an advertising point of view. Brands are increasingly feeling that Facebook's ROI is a little more complicated than it should be, compared to Google. That could affect Facebook, revenue-wise. So, Google's work is cut out: just keep building social elements into whatever it is doing, buy out smaller specialists when it can (Twitter), and it will own the social ecosystem at some point.
What will help Google is that its ecosystem is fairly open to innovators like TapIn (local news + Google maps + social media). But for now, social media is Facebook.
If the 'social media bus' is defined narrowly as platforms that allow instant sharing of observations, comments and links, then Google clearly hasn't been a runaway success.
But let's not forget YouTube and its role in creating and sharing content that populates the above platforms - be it Facebook or Twitter. So, it really hasn't missed the bus in that sense.
YouTube has been tweaked over the years to make it a must-visit aspect of your social media activity - from ease of posting content to sharing.
Google may not have realised how big and game-changing Facebook or Twitter will grow up to be. And when it launched its own versions initially (Google Buzz, Wave), they seemed to lack the simplicity and ease of use of choices available. With Google+, I think it has the potential if it keeps at it. With the dominance of Android mobile platforms where Google services are critical and the positive reviews of Nexus 7 tablet, Google has all the more scope to make Google+ ubiquitous.